Jake Voracek sat on the bench. He looked to his left. He looked to his right. And he didn’t like what he was seeing.
He saw mounting frustration.
His team had been whistled for two questionable penalties early on. The Rangers just scored for the second time in the opening 10 minutes on a flubbed shot by Benoit Pouliot.
It’s not the way the Flyers wanted to start this game. Not after losing Game 1. Not with so much on the line in these playoffs.
So, Voracek did what he thought he had to do. He told everyone on the bench to relax. Calm down. There was still plenty of time to go in the game.
Coach Craig Berube was observing his players at this time. He looked down over the bench, wondering if he needed a timeout to get his team refocused.
When he saw Voracek being the calming influence, and the rest of the players responding to him, he knew he didn’t have to.
“The bench was good at that point,” Berube would say later.
And it was. Voracek scored soon thereafter on a fine play by himself and Scott Hartnell. Being down a goal at the first intermission wasn’t such a bad thing. After all, that first period was probably the best of the four the Flyers had played so far in the playoffs.
Stay the course. Stick with the game plan. Stay even keeled. Just like their coach.
That’s what they did. And in doing so, it was of little surprise that the team responded. Whether it was Jason Akeson scoring on a power play, exorcising the demons from a penalty that led to the Game 1 loss, or Luke Schenn jumping up on a delayed penalty for a game-winning goal, or Ray Emery playing a tremendous game with 31 saves to secure the win – and a likely start in Game 3 – the Flyers were excellent.
Once they jumped ahead 3-2, the third period became completely about shutting down the Rangers. The Flyers took away their room in the neutral zone. They smothered the middle of the ice. They won board battles. They controlled the puck. And when they didn’t, Emery was there again.
It was the kind of team effort you need to win in the playoffs and it looked like the Flyers figured that out while at the same time putting that annoying monkey back in its cage that they have been carrying on their shoulders in Manhattan for more than three years.
Even players who didn’t really stand out on the score sheet made a difference.
Claude Giroux distracted Ryan McDonagh just enough to give Voracek the room needed to blow past him on the outside on the first goal.
Mark Streit was swarming around the puck and playing a physical brand of hockey to thwart many chances in the Flyers zone.
And Sean Couturier was the best Flyer skater for the second consecutive game. He was a penalty killer extraordinaire. He was excellent in the offensive zone with forechecking and creating chances.
Meanwhile guys like Vinny Lecavalier – who played more in Game 2 and deservedly so – created chances with his skating ability and his shot was the one that Akeson was able to gather as a rebound and score on.
Adam Hall had a great game getting the primary assist on the Schenn goal and even almost scoring one the other way were it not for a stunning save by Henrik Lundqvist.
As far as little things, you name them, the Flyers were able to accomplish them.
That’s why the series is tied. That’s why the Flyers just need to win home games now to advance. And that’s why the Flyers have arrived in the playoffs.
Expect more of this moving forward.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers